A Tour of Duty in North Sulawesi
by Adam J. Fenton
(continued from Bolaang Mongondow Page)
The islands off the very north coast of
Manado, which seem to form a kind of bridge
with the very southernmost islands of the
Philippines, are the group known as Sangihe
An archipelago of 77 islands,
Sangihe & Talaud like most unspoiled areas
is not easy to get to. A speedboat makes the
journey from Manado in around six hours,
stay overnight and go back the next day.
The administrative capital and largest town
is Tahuna on the island of Sangihe Besar.
There are several hotels here offering basic
but passable accommodation. In town, shop
for the carved ebony wood for which the
area is famous, as well as embroidered fabrics
from the island of Batunderang. There’s also
an interesting house of Dutch design and
unknown age. If you have a couple of days
and plenty of extra energy you could climb
Gunung Awu the spectacular volcanic peak.
First check in at the monitoring station at
Tulusau, to make sure conditions are right.
To the south of Sangihe Besar, the island
of Siau has a glorious 1800m volcanic peak
known locally as Gunung Api Siau. This
volcano had a major explosion in 1974,
which destroyed much of the infrastructure
of the island. It can be climbed but should
be approached with caution.
The region’s other main attractions are
its completely unspoilt beaches of which
there are many. Sangihe Talaud is also
getting more and more popular with birdlovers.
The islands are home to nine endemic species,
and new ones are being discovered regularly.
Continue Reading: Bitung & Lembeh Strait
This year is a special year, an unusual break with
routine. After a good harvest last year, everyone
was amazed when the clove trees started to fruit
again. Although not a great harvest (“panen raya”),
this year the gods seem to have blessed the people
of Sangihe Talaud, because the clove trees have
fruited again. Or so they thought. But the epithet
"Indonesia wins again" applies equally to the poor
farmers of the islands off North Sulawesi, because
as the farmers watched the fruits form and ripen
on the trees, they also watched the price fall from
Rp 80,000 per kilo, to as low as Rp 25,000 per
kilo by the peak of the harvest.
Still, everyone is busy harvesting the cloves. People
will travel from Minhasa to help with the harvest,
that can only be achieved by climbing the tree and
pulling the branches in to the trunk with a specially
designed double hooked bar. Then the fruit,
pale green or slightly red can be plucked off the
branch and carefully placed in the nylon sac or
basket carried by the farmer. One tree can take
over a day to harvest, with a 'good' yield being 60-
70 kg of green fruit. Each kilo of fresh harvested
fruit will be only 300 g when fully dried.
Each village is heavy with the scent of drying
cloves. Each road side or even a row down the
middle of a road in narrow areas, is lined with Hessian
sacks covered with cloves. In three to four
days in a dry sunny period the Green and red fruit
shrinks and darkens through orange, brown to the
familiar brown-black nail that we love in baked ham
and mulled wine. Very little of this crop is exported,
an estimated 95% goes up in smoke, the heart of
the Indonesian tobacco industry.
A specialty of the Maluku islands just next door, this
spice is one of the highest value exports for the
small scale farmer. Fruiting from about the fifth year,
a tree can remain productive for over twenty years.
Except in Talaud, where there are orchards full of
cloves, most plantations seem ramshackle and disordered,
in fact this is a highly evolved multi-crop;
coconuts interspersed with nutmeg produce an export
harvest three to four times a year. Banana’s
and breadfruit are grown for home and local consumption.
And the ferns can be harvested for pakis.
Most are organically grown – the cost of applying
fertilizer and the reticent nature of fruition makes it
not effective to add expensive chemicals.
But the two types of clove (Zanzibar and Kelotok)
that is exceptional to this area with its own mystique
and legend. They say that every harvest needs
to have a sacrifice, indeed in early August two
people fell to their deaths on the same day. The
porters at Tahuna port tell of the tree that is so
large it takes six people to ring it at arms stretch
and half a village to harvest it.
But most trees do not reach this exception. A seedling
planted and well tended will fruit for the first
time in five or six years, then continue to fruit cyclically
for the next twenty years or so. Guaranteeing
two of the most typical tropical smells, - Enchanting
exotic spices and smoking Kreteks.
Bill Marsden is a technical advisor for Yayasan
Laut Lestari Indonesia (YLLI).
Yayasan Laut Lestari Indonesia is undertaking
a long-term programme to reduce environmental
degradation and raise the standard of
living of the Coastal communities of Sangihe
Talaud. Working with communities, Local
NGO’s and Local Government.
YLLI would like to thank the Yayasan Kelola
Sangihe Talaud team for their help in researching
Manado Safari Tours Newsletter
The massive Gunung Awu stratovolcano
occupies the northern end of
Sangihe Besar (Great Sangihe) Island.
Sangihe and Talaud are a chain of islands stretching north from Sulawesi in the direction of the Philippines. The archipelago consists of 77 islands, of which 56
are inhabited. The population is 260,370 people (1996). Most of the people are involved in agriculture, which includes coconuts, vanilla, nutmeg, and cloves.
There are many active volcanoes here and a very fertile soil. The islands are divided into two main groups; Sangihe, consisting of the islands Sangir Besar,
Siau, Tagulandang and Biaro; and Talaud consisting of the islands of Karakelang, Salibabu, Kaburuan, Nanusa, Miangas, plus many other smaller ones.
In 2002 Sangihe and Talaud became seperate regencies, with the capital of Sangihe being Tahuna, while that of Talaud is Melonguane. Both Sangihe and Talaud have small
airstrips serviced by Merpati Nusantara Airlines once a week. Please check with a travel agent. There are seaports in Tahuna, Siau, Tagulandang and Beo
which are serviced by various ferries and local boats.
Sangihe Talaud is renowned for its magnificent white sandy beaches with amazing coral gardens as well as an underwater active volcano.
THE KING'S PALACE. Is the old royal residence used during the period of the Tahuna Kingdoms, Manganitu and Tamako. Inside the building you can
still see relics of the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and Tagalog episodes. This is a definite must see.
THE OLD CHURCH. This church is located in Manganitu, Sangihe Besar Island. It was built by Ernst Traugott Steller, a German missionary, in the last century.
There is nothing left inside, however the building is still intact. There is a family gravesite on the property. Take a look, as it is one of the few
historical sights in the islands. >>More info
MOUNT AWU CRATER LAKE. Situated on Sangihe Besar Island, Mount Awu (1320 m) is still active and it last erupted in 2004. The crater
lake is particularly beautiful with dark green, light green and white colours contrasting. Those interested in climbing it should inquire at the Volcanologist Office in Tahuna.
MAHARO ISLAND. This beautiful tiny island is located on the eastern side of Siau Island. Justly proud of the beauty of its own, touring to
this island is a wonderful opportunity to visit a Portuguese ruined fortress. Only a few minutes by a motorized outrigger canoe from Siau harbour
Heavily forested with lush verdant tropical vegetation, this tiny island bustles with the activity of Maleo birds, cockatoos and other birds. It is surrounded
by white sandy beaches and there is extensive coral reefs nearby. Take a motorized outrigger canoe from Lirung harbour (45 minutes) or from Melangguane Airport
(60 minutes) to this splendid island.
KARANGETANG VOLCANO. Towering 1.800 m in Siau, this volcano is still active and last erupted in 1974. Karangetang Volcano graces the entrance
to Siau harbour.
NUTMEG PLANTATION IN SIAU. Blessed by fertile land, caused by ash from the Karengetan Volcano, some villages used their land for nutmeg plantations.
Indeed, most of the ground is covered by green and thick nutmeg trees, and makes a breathtaking view of this spice forest.
SANTIAGO MAUSOLEUM. Lying among towering coconut palms and a flowery garden, overlooking a beautiful stretch of forested mountains and sea views, is the King Santiago
Mausoleum. The kind ruled Manganitu Kingdom from 1670 – 1677. Only 14 km from Tahuna by a microlet (small public bus).
MAHANGETANG UNDERWATER VALCANO. Lies 4 – 8 meters underwater, only about 300 m off the island of Mahangetang, this underwater volcano affords a magnificent view of
water boiling under the sea. Located 18 miles away from Tahuna, it is easily reached by hiring a motorized outrigger canoe from Tahuna harbour.